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INTERNATIONAL DIGEST: Iranian women refuse order to deny Christ

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (BP)–Two young women are still being held in Iran’s notorious Evin Prison after refusing to deny Jesus Christ and return to Islam.

Maryam Rostampour, 27, and Marzieh Amirizadeh, 30, were detained by Iranian security officers in March after being arrested on grounds of being “anti-government” and “a threat to national security,” according to freethemm.com, a website dedicated to winning their release. At an Aug. 9 hearing in Tehran’s Revolutionary Court, the two learned the sole charge against them is apostasy — leaving Islam. When the judge told them they would be executed if they did not recant their faith, the two reportedly told him to expedite the sentence.

The pair subsequently were returned to the prison, where friends say their health is deteriorating because of unsanitary conditions and lack of medical care, the website reported. Authorities set bail of $400,000 and their families have offered the deeds to their homes but no judge apparently is willing to review the case.

In mid-September, women dressed in white gathered outside Iran’s embassy in London for a prayer vigil supported by the advocacy group Christian Solidarity Worldwide, according to the worthynews.com website.

“Neither woman has committed a crime under Iranian or international law. We wholeheartedly stand in solidarity with Maryam and Marzieh, who are being held solely on the basis of exercising their most basic right: freedom of thought, conscience and belief,” CSW’s Mervyn Thomas said in a statement released after the demonstration. “Scores of illegal detentions of Christian converts in Iran” have been reported this year, Thomas added. “We strongly urge the Iranian Government to release these innocent women immediately.”

MILITANTS MURDER SOMALI CHRISTIAN OVER BIBLES–A longtime leader of the underground church in Somalia was murdered Sept. 15 after Muslim extremists found Bibles in his possession.

Militants of al Shabaab, a rebel group linked to al-Qaida that has taken over large parts of Somalia, stopped 69-year-old Omar Khalafe Sept. 15 at one of their security checkpoints near the port city of Merca, Compass Direct News reported. The militants stopped the bus on which he was traveling and searched the baggage, finding 25 Somali Bibles Khalafe was taking to an underground congregation. When the militants found photos in the bag linking Khalafe to the Bibles, they demanded to know if he was the owner. When he refused to answer, they shot him to death.

Khalafe left behind a widow and seven children. His family was unable to participate in his burial due to the risk of being killed, Compass reported. One of Khalafe’s sons reportedly said, “It is unfortunate that we were not there to give our dad a decent burial. God knows how He will reward him.”

POLICE FIRE ON PROTESTS OVER CHRISTIANS ‘TORTURE’ DEATH–Police in Sialkot, Pakistan, fired on mourners trying to move the coffin of a young Christian who died in police custody on charges of blaspheming Islam’s holy book, the Qur’an.

Police officials said Robert Danish, 22, committed suicide Sept. 15, but Christians insist he was tortured to death, saying the mother of his Muslim girlfriend contrived the charge against him, Compass Direct reported. When mourners tried to take his coffin from Sialkot to Danish’s nearby hometown, Jathikai, police reportedly fired shots directly at the Christians, injuring three and forcing the mourners to flee.

Two Christian doctors who observed the autopsy on Danish’s body reportedly told media in front of thousands of Christians that Danish had been tortured to death, Compass reported. The provincial government has ordered an investigation and three prison officials reportedly were suspended.

A family member said Danish had a romantic relationship with a young Muslim woman whose mother disapproved of the relationship. When the mother told the wife of a local Muslim cleric about the relationship, the cleric’s wife warned that both the young people could lose their lives if the relationship continued. When the young woman conveyed that message to Danish, a letter purportedly containing a section of the Qur’an apparently fell to the ground and was soiled. Danish later was arrested on charges of blaspheming Islam’s holy book.

UK LESBIANS GIVEN EQUAL PARENTAL RIGHTS–Lesbian couples in England and Wales who have been receiving fertility treatments now can have both their names registered on the birth certificate of a child conceived from those treatments.

Birth certificates will be used that have two “parent” sections, rather than “mother” and “father” sections, the BBC news service reported. Previously, a mother’s female partner could not be registered as a parent. The change means that the biological father will no longer have the option of being named on the birth certificate if both women wish to have their names on the document.

The change confers legal parenthood on the female partner of the biological mother.

Britain’s Home Office minister, Lord Brett, said the move was “an important step forward” in the process of affording equality “as family circumstances continue to change,” the BBC reported. However, lawmaker Nadine Dorries told the BBC, “If we want to build a stable society, a mother and father and children works as the best model. We should be striving towards repairing and reinforcing marriage. I think this move sends out the exact opposite message.”

Peter Saunders, of the Christian Medical Fellowship, told the Daily Mail newspaper the change would “create a legal fiction around the parentage of the children” and would result in a “legal minefield” over issues of maintenance and inheritance.

Another lawmaker, Geraldine Smith, added: “To have a birth certificate with two mothers and no father is just madness,” the BBC reported.
Compiled by Baptist Press assistant editor Mark Kelly.

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